Question for Dr. Leia: If you are pregnant and have a lack of iron what are the best foods or combination of foods to provide Iron and B vitamins for a maternity patient who is eight months along?
Will eating less meat and more whole grains help? What can we do to help increase iron absorption naturally?
I have heard that iron deficiency during pregnancy can lead to developmental problems of the fetus.
Correcting Anemia During Pregnancy
Dr. Leia’s answer: Anemia or a low red blood cell count during pregnancy is common and can be caused by several factors.
Vegetarians and dieters are especially at risk. Lack of iron, folic acid, and Vitamin B12 in the diet can cause anemia.
Your doctor should monitor you for iron stores in the body by way of a ferritin blood test, serum iron level, and hemoglobin and hematocrit blood tests, and also check your folic acid levels and vitamin B12 levels.
It is not wise to stop eating meat when you have a low iron count. Meat actually contains more iron than grains, although grain contains iron also. Meat is also needed by the body to produce vitamin B12, which can also be monitored by a blood test and can cause a form of anemia.
Vegetarians do not produce vitamin B12 and should always supplement with B12 in order to prevent this deficiency. Pregnancy is not a time to diet or to limit the intake of food because the need for iron and other nutrients is increased at this time.
Sometimes stomach ulcers and hemorrhoids can cause a loss of blood which can lead to anemia and low iron levels.
It is ok to take an iron supplement if needed and as advised by your doctor, so do not hesitate to do so per his or her recommendation.
Best Sources of Iron
Good sources of iron are:
- red meat and beef
- dried fruit
- whole grains and cereals
- cooked spinach
For iron to be absorbed, the body needs adequate vitamin C which can be obtained from oranges, lemons, limes, and raw vegetables, or in a supplemental pill or powder form.
In addition, folic acid supplementation from the beginning of pregnancy is mandatory to prevent spina bifida in the newborn. Most pregnancy multi vitamins contain 800 mg. of folic acid which is extremely important to your child’s health and will also work in tandem with vitamin B12 to prevent anemia during pregnancy.
Folic Acid Rich Foods
Foods rich in folic acid include:
- brussel sprouts
Many women find they prefer a more gentle iron supplement during pregnancy, as some iron can have digestive side effects. Carbonyl iron is naturally regulated by the human body, making it easier on the system than other types of iron. If you’re experiencing
digestive difficulties, ask your doctor about switching to a carbonyl iron supplement.
I hope the lists of foods rich in folic acid and iron help ensure you are getting the proper nutrition along with taking the doctor recommended prenatal vitamins. Best wishes.